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Why you shouldn't use hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol on cuts and scrapes

Bandage

What’s the best way to clean a minor cut or scrape?

It’s not to pour hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol over the open wound, says Anthony Shaver, an advanced practice nurse at Ascension Medical Group Immediate Care.

Instead, he says, it’s best to gently clean injuries with an antiseptic wipe or under cool running water.

“I know we’ve all been told to keep alcohol and peroxide in our first aid kits to disinfect wounds, but those chemicals can actually damage tissue and slow healing,” Shaver says. “Now, we tell people to avoid using them on injuries.”

What you should use

Instead, he recommends rinsing minor cuts and scrapes under cool, running water for several minutes, and if necessary, sudsing gently with mild soap to remove dirt, debris and bacteria.

If the wounds appear deep, he advises treatment by a medical professional, such as at an immediate care clinic.

Once the wound is clean, use a swab or cotton ball to dab a bit of antibiotic ointment on it, to help prevent infection. Then cover the wound with a bandage to keep it moist and clean. That actually helps an injury heal faster than leaving it open to the air, he adds.

If the injury is a cut, apply the bandage crosswise, not lengthwise, to help hold the cut edges together and promote healing, he advises.

What to keep in your first aid kit

Instead of alcohol or peroxide, Shaver recommends including these items in your home first aid kit:

  • An assortment of adhesive bandages, sterile gauze pads and cloth tape
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Antiseptic wipes
  • Hydrocortisone ointment

When possible, purchase single-use packets of ointments instead of tubes, because they stay fresh and sterile longer, he says.

So how can you use hydrogen peroxide?

Even though you don’t want to keep peroxide and alcohol in your first aid kit, don’t throw your unused bottles away. Use them to clean and disinfect your home:

Clean kitchen surfaces – Spray peroxide on cutting boards, counters or inside the refrigerator and dishwasher. Let it bubble for a few minutes, then wipe it away.

Disinfect sponges – Place sponges in a mix of half warm water, half peroxide, or full strength alcohol, then soak for 5-10 minutes and rinse.

Clean shiny surfaces – Apply alcohol directly to a soft cloth and use it to wipe down stainless steel appliances, bathroom mirrors and chrome fixtures, to clean and disinfect without streaks.

Frost buster – In a spray bottle, mix two parts alcohol to one part water, then spray onto the outside of iced-over or frosted car windows. It will remove ice build up quickly and easily, with a bit of help from your windshield wipes.

Sanitize your computer keyboard and mouse – Apply full-strength alcohol to a soft cloth and wipe down the keys and mouse to remove the grease and grim you can see – and the bacteria you can’t.

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About Judy Conkling

Judy Conkling is a Wichita writer and editor with a deep interest in all things related to healthy living.